Residents in Taoyuan City were rudely awoken by a massive explosion at the CPC oil refinery at around 6:40 am this morning, January 29. Following the explosion, a fire engulfed the desulfurization unit. According to media reports, the explosion was heard as far as 10 kilometers away.
The fire bureau dispatched 93 personnel, 37 fire appliances, and 3 ambulances to the scene of the fire. Fortunately, there were no injuries reported.
According to preliminary reports, the explosion and fire occurred when a pipe ruptured and a boiler exploded as workers attempted to restart a furnace at the second hydrodesulfurization plant. The section had been offline for maintenance.
The Sun Rose in the West
Residents of Taoyuan uploaded pictures and video to social media showing a massive fire, with flames leaping as high as a high-rise building. One person described the scene as like the sun rising in the west. However, despite the size and intensity of the blaze, firefighters had the fire under control by 7:35 am.
The EPA said that pollution from the fire should not be a problem as wind conditions, and the short duration of the fire are conducive for quick dispersal. However, Kindergartens and schools in the vicinity have been advised to suspend outdoor activities, and keep windows and doors closed. Three nearby schools suspended classes altogether. Currently, students are on vacation, but many schools still host activities and remedial classes.
CPC said that the impact of the fire will not affect the domestic fuel supply. The Dalin refinery can make up for the shortfall, and if it can’t keep up with demand, exports will be reduced and the local oil market will be prioritized.
At around 9:00 am, several dozen residents showed up at the gate of the refinery to protest and demand the plant’s relocation. Local residents have been demanding the plant to relocate for many years, due to pollution and safety concerns. CPC agreed to relocate the plant in 2004, however, the company has recently invested in renovating and upgrading the desulfurization plants to reduce pollution, and has made no signs of plans to relocate from the densely populated area.
Residents said that they lived every day in fear.
At 9:30 am, the mayor visited the site and said that the company will face a fine of NT$1 million for air pollution caused by the incident. Mayor Zheng called for a deadline to be set to improve industrial safety at the refinery. On his Facebook page, the mayor called for CPC to urgently implement a relocation plan.